April 27, 2005

This is Beirut

Posted by Michael J. Totten

Beirut is a bullet-riddled Holiday Inn with 15-foot holes blasted into the side of it towering above elegant new construction downtown.

Beirut is a Starbucks that is identical to the one near my house in Portland, Oregon down to the last nail.

Beirut is the most impeccably polite and charming waiter who has ever served me dinner and wine.

Beirut is a fat man smoking a cigar in the elevator.

Beirut is where everyone calls me "sir" and says "welcome."

Beirut is a taxi driver leaning on his horn and screaming at cars.

Beirut is Eastern.

Beirut is Western.

Beirut is a veiled 50-year old woman in a black head-to-toe chador shuffling past a young scantily-clad jogger plugged into her iPod.

Beirut is a French colonial architectural masterpiece.

Beirut is a row of 1970s eyesore apartment towers.

Beirut is an elegant cobble-stoned street.

Beirut is a leg-breaking hole in the sidewalk.

Beirut is Christian.

Beirut is Muslim.

Beirut is ground zero of a liberal-democratic revolution in the Middle East.

Beirut is religious fanatics with guns on the streets of the southern Hezbollahland suburbs.

Beirut is a tiny woman begging for handouts.

Beirut is a tycoon decked out in gaudy over-sized jewelry behind the wheel of a Mercedes.

Beirut is the muezzin's haunting call to Muslim prayer.

Beirut is the soft peal of church bells.

Beirut is booze, gambling, flirtatious women, and Playboy Magazine sold on the streets.

Beirut is where unmarried - even engaged - men are encouraged to visit prostitutes because it takes the pressure off their girlfriends.

Beirut is the capital of a Middle Eastern country that actually holds elections.

Beirut is where three Lebanese presidents were murdered by the Syrian Baath regime.

Beirut is Christians and Muslims living together in peace.

Beirut is an insurance company manager in an upscale bar with a picture of gun-toting Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel saved on his cell phone.

Beirut is people who say in public whatever they want.

Beirut is Syrian secret police who listen to everything everyone says.

Beirut is a graveyard of Israelis.

Beirut is a graveyard of Americans.

Beirut is a graveyard of the Syrian empire.

Beirut is, especially, a graveyard of Lebanese.

Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East.

Beirut is the Sarajevo of the Middle East.

Beirut is civilized.

Beirut is wild.

One thing Beirut is not, and has never been: Beirut is not boring.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 27, 2005 10:23 PM
Comments

Nice post, Michael. Very thought-provoking.

And I thought America was a country of contrasts and extremes.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 28, 2005 05:10 AM

Another thought: it's clear that the only way there will be peace in Lebanon is if Lebanese admit to each other that there is more than one way to be Lebanese.

May I make a modest proposition to the more carnivorous denizens on this site? Perhaps there is more than one way to be American.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 28, 2005 06:00 AM

The brilliantly insightful Amir Taheri says this about the Lebanese freedom movement (please read the whole article):

“WITH just four days be fore the deadline set by the United Nations' Security Council was to expire, Syria completed its military withdrawal from Lebanon this week, ending an occupation that had began almost 30 years ago.

The event, a setback for President Bashar al-Assad's Ba'athist regime, is a major victory for pro-reform forces in both Lebanon and Syria.”

http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/23542.htm

Posted by: David Thomson at April 28, 2005 07:28 AM

Nice post, however:

"Beirut is the muezzin's haunting call to Muslim prayer.

Beirut is the soft peal of church bells. "

If taken to extremes both (all) religions are haunting...

Posted by: anotherbigmouth at April 28, 2005 08:32 AM

anotherbigmout: both (all) religions are haunting

I'm referring to the sound here. It's haunting. And I mean that in a good way, not a bad way. I rather enjoy listening to it. It sounds otherwordly, and I'm pretty sure that's on purpose.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 28, 2005 08:57 AM

VinoVeritas,

"I thought America was a country of contrasts and extremes."

Actually, this is an illusion one gets from paying a lot of attention to partisan politics. If you ever have the opportunity to work with and spend a lot of time discussing policy with Republican and Democrat senators and representatives, you will be struck with how much they agree on the fundamental questions. Look at the last election, Kerry more or less ran on the plank that he would have more or less done the same thing as Bush, but he would have done it better. This nation's people agree on a great deal. There is a profound amount of national consensus. In fact, the sense we get of contrasts and extremes from partisan politics stands out because it contrasts so starkly with the social consensus and cohesion we normally enjoy. In America, calling someone "extreme" is an epithet despite the illogic of this point. Being extreme in and of itself is meaningless. In many nations, wanting freedom and democracy is an extreme. In Russia, Stalin ordered all the Germans and Kalmyks deported to the gulags in Siberia. Given that the average life expectancy was something like 10 years and they were basically slaves, this was an extreme position. On the other hand, I am sure some, including the Kalmyks, wanted none of them deported. This also was an extreme position. Is the best answer to kill only half the Germans and Kalmyks?

On the other hand, the national consensus seems to be degrading.

Posted by: JBP at April 28, 2005 09:20 AM

JPB,

If I may so bold as to interpret Vino's words for him, I don't believe that he was arguing that the country is radically divided by deep political chasms.

Rather, it seemed to me that, like Mr. Totten's description of Beirut, America is an incredibly diverse country and that what is good about Lebanon is also good about America - namely, that those contrasts are a source of strength.

In doing so, he seemed to be rebuking the notion that there is only one acceptable form of "real" Americans, that there is only one political party devoted to America while the other is devoted to treason, and so forth.

In Vino, verily.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 28, 2005 11:30 AM

Very interesting, this Beirut. It's literally where East and West meet. Both are battling for the city's heart and soul.

Posted by: spaniard at April 28, 2005 01:24 PM

America and Beirut may have many unique facets, but to assume that dogmatic extremists as Muslims worldwide are proving to be, can live in peace and unity with Christians is a tenuous assumption at best.

Either they will act as a single united front for democracy (and bickering will end at the country's edge) or they will become like the United States, so preoccupied with its own facets, that it misses the point of what America IS.

Sure it may seem cool to be a minority, it may seem cool to be the rebel, the lone voice or the loyal opposition. It may feel good to say "look at my unique point of view". However, if that point of view, if that facet is so blemished that it detracts from the gem that is America... then its not neat, cool nor good. Leftwing nutjobs have a pretty flawed facet.

Posted by: Conservative Stuff at April 28, 2005 01:27 PM

Beruit is a land (well, Lebanon) where the ethnic and religious hostilities are so great a census is politically impossible.

Lebanon is a country from which Jews fled and are definitely not welcome.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at April 28, 2005 01:31 PM

Spaniard,

Something tells me that Totten's post had more to do with the dual nature of a single city where very different people live side-by-side in what amounts to harmony, and not that there was some titanic struggle going on between good Western and bad Eastern civilizations.

But maybe I got that totally wrong.

Conservative Stuff,

I love the notion of a dichotomy between a world full of rabid, extremist Muslims grinding up against a world of peaceful, tolerant Christians. Certainly, extremist Muslims have painted your understanding of Muslims as a whole, all ~1 billion. I wonder out loud, why haven't Christian extremists colored your view of Christians as a whole?

I'm not sure where you were going with that second part. You think that a loyal opposition is acting out of a desire to rebel or be cool and not, say, a genuine belief that what they're doing is the best way of achieving good things for the world? You'd do well to remember that the next time conservatives are the loyal opposition.

And yes, as a conservative, it's your duty to point out how terrible leftwing nutjobs are. Wouldn't it be easier, you think, to save a few seconds, type a few less letters, and simply condemn nutjobs in general? Or do conservative nutjobs get a pass, out of ideological respect?

Anyway, it sounds like what you're saying is that diversity of belief, and being in the minority of belief, are bad things - that liberals, in effect, are detracting from the "gem that is America". Have I read this correctly, or am I totally wrong?

Posted by: The Commenter at April 28, 2005 01:38 PM

Something tells me that Totten's post had more to do with the dual nature of a single city where very different people live side-by-side in what amounts to harmony, and not that there was some titanic struggle going on between good Western and bad Eastern civilizations.

Commenter,

The could be true, yet we know that though the cultures live side by side, it's an uneasy truce at best.

Regardless, this "titanic struggle" would be something age-old and organic, and not something joe blow on the street would even be aware of.

Posted by: spaniard at April 28, 2005 01:51 PM

Commentator: Something tells me that Totten's post had more to do with the dual nature of a single city where very different people live side-by-side in what amounts to harmony, and not that there was some titanic struggle going on between good Western and bad Eastern civilizations.

Correct. The worst bigots I've met here are Hezbollah groupies. The second worst are the right-wing Christians. The Sunni Muslims, in my anecdotal experience, were the most reasonable.

Do with that what you will. It is not even remotely scientific. Just one month's worth of experience. (And my hotel is in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 28, 2005 01:59 PM

Commenter - most Americans are moderates, and, in general, we tend to be pro-independence and pro-democracy, as many Lebanese seem to be.

Speaking for myself, the only political opinions that I consistently object to are pro-totalitarian or pro-dictatorship. Many people disguise these pro-totalitarian statements as a plea for "peace", an argument that is, by now, pitifully transparent.

From neo-neocon's most recent installment in her Vietnam series:

"the Vietnamese people, as John Kerry had famously stated, didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. To those who believed this, they felt it was just a tiny proportion of the South Vietnamese people who were suffering; and that most people didn't care what form of government they had, they were just happy to see peace at least."

It didn't work out that way. In any case, moderate muslims, Christians, Republicans, atheists and Democrats are all capable of living together despite their differences. We see that in America and Michael sees this in Lebanon. But to totalitarians and their supporters, "peace" can only come from the elimination of dissent and disagreement.

Posted by: mary at April 28, 2005 02:35 PM

Hey Michael-- Wow! You're both a poet and a revolutionary tourist. Maybe when you figure out that Bush and the Neocons don't give two shits about democracy (in Lebanon or elsewhere) maybe you'll come back to the anti-authoritarian left and clean house against the Stalinists and identity politics frauds that cripple the American Left. We could use you.

Posted by: Drydock at April 28, 2005 02:49 PM

Smells like troll. Lot of that going around these days...

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 28, 2005 04:23 PM

“...you figure out that Bush and the Neocons don't give two shits about democracy (in Lebanon or elsewhere)”

Even if one agreed with your premise “that Bush and the Neocons don't give two shits about democracy (in Lebanon or elsewhere)”---the practical fact of the matter is that they have liberated millions. I prefer results far more than mere good intentions. The allegedly well meaning Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean would have left these people to continue wallowing in their misery.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 28, 2005 04:53 PM

Great post, Michael, very poetic. You obviously were inspired.

Posted by: Patricia at April 28, 2005 07:23 PM

Michael - Great post! A vivid and memorable word picture. Thanks.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at April 28, 2005 07:37 PM

David,

Yup. I couldn't care less what Dick Cheney's "real" motives are. The results speak for themselves. Neocons freed more people in a few weeks than Amnesty International could in a thousand years. Leftist motives and good intentions aren't worth a dime.

Give me actions and results over motives any day of the week.

Posted by: spaniard at April 28, 2005 08:27 PM

Drydock: Maybe when you figure out that Bush and the Neocons don't give two shits about democracy (in Lebanon or elsewhere)

I can't speak for Bush here, or his neocon staff. But I will point out that almost every single blogger who links to the Lebanese Pulse of Freedom democracy blog from the tent-city is an American conservative.

CNN ran a story on the tent-city bloggers, though, so kudos to them. The BBC is running a story, too. I know because I connected the reporter to the bloggers myself. But why are the liberal bloggers shrugging it off if they care more about democracy in Lebanon than the conservatives do? How do you explain that? What's the deal?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 28, 2005 10:55 PM

Glad that you guys admit that the neocons real motive isn't democracy. So why don't you name their real agenda?

Posted by: Drydock at April 28, 2005 11:01 PM

Drydock,

the neocon agenda is to further American interests.

That includes...(wait for it)...(here it comes)... OIL.

ta da da!

Happy?

And it also includes draining the swamps in the middle east and supporting emergent democracies.

What's your agenda? You have none. That's why you lost.

Posted by: spaniard at April 28, 2005 11:10 PM

Hey Michael-- I posted my last post before seeing your last post-- so I'll respond now. Well, I honestly don't quite feel qualified to explain the dynamics of the left vs the right on the blogosphere. Maybe liberal bloggers are knee jerk hypocrites or maybe they just don't know of or like or trust the blog you mentioned. I can't offer anything more than speculation.

Do any of you know who AMLO is? It's the acroynm of the name of the mayor of Mexico City who is being blocked from running for the presidency of Mexico. How many conservative bloggers are talking about that? Seeing that Mexico is 30 times bigger than Lebanon and our neighbor to the south you'd think it'd get a little commentary.

Posted by: Drydock at April 28, 2005 11:36 PM

"the neocon agenda is to further American interests.

That includes...(wait for it)...(here it comes)... OIL."

What evidence can you present that supposes the so-called 'neocons' are actively supporting and pursueing policies that shore up America's oil interests (Please do cite the works of the Chomskyite Left and the Isolationist Right if you must)

They are pursuing American Interests in so far as 'freedom for others means safety for ourselves' but their hawkish foreign policy has much more to do with a genuine antipathy for totalitarianism and sympathy for those under it's maul.

The great discovery made by Seymour Hersh in his book 'chain of command' was the revelation that the so called 'neocons' were not corporate warriors opining for Democracy to cover for some subversive pursuit of American interest in Oil or whatever (as the Anti-War left has often claimed fanatically) they were actually true believers who mean't what they said and said what they mean't. Which was obvious to anyone familiar with the more infamous 'neocons'. This seemed much scarier to Hersh, and very amusing to me.

So no, the neocons are not a ruthless cabal of intellectuals engaging in realpolitik manuevers for superficial American interets such as Oil. That you(as someone I assume who leans to the right of the political spectrum) not only believes but is perfectly comfortable with this speaks volumes.

I knew that there were a few of those on the American Right who were more or less similiar the cliche caricatures of Right wingers often painted by Left. I just never would have predicted that one of them would frequent a progressive foreign policy blog such as this. How unfortunate.

Posted by: Epitome at April 29, 2005 01:39 AM

Drydock: How many conservative bloggers are talking about that?

I doubt they even know about it. Are the liberals writing about it? I've seen no mention of it except from you. Then again, I'm in Lebanon, not the US or Mexico. So maybe I'm just out of the loop here.

Anyway, I know as an absolute fact that Kos and Atrios know all about the Lebanese Pulse of Freedom blog. They said they would support it, then they didn't follow through on that promise. Only the conservatives did.

If conservatives only pretend to care about democracy in the Middle East, why won't the liberals even go so far as to pretend?

I hate politicizing Lebanon. The only reason I'm even bringing this up is because you say, with zero evidence and in defiance of the counter-evidence, that conservatives are only faking their interest. It's just a bizarre assertion to me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 29, 2005 01:57 AM

OT a bit, the Croos and crescent pendant, how tough would it be to pick up another pair. I have a couple people in mind for them. More on topic, Lebanon is deadly important to the future of the Middle East. Getting Syria the hell out was deadly important to the Middle East. Standing around gnashing teeth and wailing the cop out du jour is NOT deadly important to anything or anyone.

Posted by: Dave at April 29, 2005 02:44 AM

OT a bit, the Cross and crescent pendant, how tough would it be to pick up another pair? I have a couple people in mind for them. More on topic, Lebanon is deadly important to the future of the Middle East. Getting Syria the hell out was deadly important to the Middle East. Standing around gnashing teeth and wailing the cop out du jour is NOT deadly important to anything or anyone.

Posted by: Dave at April 29, 2005 02:45 AM

“Anyway, I know as an absolute fact that Kos and Atrios know all about the Lebanese Pulse of Freedom blog. They said they would support it, then they didn't follow through on that promise. Only the conservatives did.

If conservatives only pretend to care about democracy in the Middle East, why won't the liberals even go so far as to pretend?”

That is a very easy question to answer. I feel somewhat like Barry Bonds waiting for a slow pitch over the center of the plate. This is because, on at least a subconscious level, Kos and Atrios do not give a damn about any political movements that are not clearly socialist. Has Michael Totten ever asked either gentleman what they think of “The Bicycle Diaries?” Furthermore, the more pro-American these Lebanese are---the more the Leftists will despise them. Only Middle Eastern movements that consistent condemn the United States (and Israel) are deemed “authentic.”

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 04:16 AM

"the neocon agenda is to further American interests.

That includes...(wait for it)...(here it comes)... OIL."

I plead guilty as charged. Our need for oil is definitely a major factor regarding our interests in the Middle East. Only a fool would deny this obvious fact. Oh gosh, I guess I’ve let the secret out of the bag. I’m such a scum bag.

The real question is whether we will look the other way while Middle Eastern dictators victimize their populations. Sadly, this has sometimes been the case in the not too distant past. George W. Bush has fortunately committed our foreign policy to the cause of freedom. Are our motives entirely altruistic? Hell no! We now realize that our safety depends on defeating the Islamic nihilists and their more secular comrades. Legitimate democracy movements in Lebanon and elsewhere help us sleep better at night.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 04:40 AM

David,

Bush may have "committed our foreign policy to the cause of freedom", but he continues to make decisions that cast doubt on that committment.

For example, his silence on Mexico. More importantly, however, are moments such as the recent hand-holding photo-op with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. While Bush speaks about liberty and freedom, he often acts as if he cared more about convenient tyrants than inconvenient democrats (the Bush administration's total snubbing of Iraqi trade unions, many of which are ostensibly socialist but are actually among the staunchest democrats and pro-Americans in Iraq and which actually requested US assistance, is another example).

The problem, other than the fact that he fills roughly half of America with the sense that he talks rather than acting, is that many Muslims perceive this as two-faced. Middle Eastern writers frequently complain about this and the resultant inability to trust the US, and what little public opinion information coming out of the Middle East indicates that many view US rhetoric as hypocritical and untrustworthy.

A worthy goal, then, if Bush truly is dedicated to bringing freedom to these countries, is to encourage Bush to stop doing things that encourage the perception that he'd rather be holding hands with Abdullah than seeing actual free and fair elections that might bring to power someone not entirely in love with America.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 05:30 AM

I have heard many people in Lebanon say exactly what The Commenter just said above. Christians are likely to give him some slack and even cheer his name. But the Sunni just don't know what on earth to make of his inconsistency. They like him sometimes, and they don't like him other times. He gives them reasons to be wary, and he should stop it. It isn't helping.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 29, 2005 06:22 AM

Only Middle Eastern movements that consistent condemn the United States (and Israel) are deemed “authentic.”

David,

Bingo. The Left isn't too hard to figure out. They follow that same pattern here at home. Blacks, for instance, aren't successful role models if they aren't Liberal/Leftist. They are either uncle toms who have sold out to The Man, or they're shunned.

Overseas, they have to be either Leftist or anti-American to be embraced by our Lefties here at home. Watch them suddenly light up the blogs if the marchers in Beirut turn to anti-Americanism. Not complicated.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 07:22 AM

That's not the first time I've gotten vindication from you in this comment thread, or in your comments section in general, Mr. Totten. It's kind of nice. To everyone who disagrees with me: ha! Take that, jerkfaces.

But my personal favorite is when you write a post along the lines of "the average conservative and liberal aren't that different, and we have more to gain from cooperating against common threats than villainizing each other".

And people write in your comments section: "I totally agree! If only those evil, traitorous liberals would just do the same..."

Just a pet peeve...

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 07:27 AM

"Blacks, for instance, aren't successful role models if they aren't Liberal/Leftist. They are either uncle toms who have sold out to The Man, or they're shunned."

Define 'Liberal/Leftist'

Posted by: Epitome at April 29, 2005 07:43 AM

The Commenter
RE: Pet Peeves

You make a good point. I know the vast majority of liberals are not evil, traitorous, etc. But here is the deal. When the Dems make an evil, traitorous slanderer an honored guest at their national convention ...

Well, it looks bad. People are not drawing unreasonable conclusions -- even if they are not correct.

Not to make an argumentum ad temperantiam, but Bush's behavior is my pet peeve. I want him to be better than he is. He probably thinks that he can reform Saudi Arabia peacefully, which is admirable. But he is making bad impressions. The kind of impression that the mentioned film maker will probably use to slander him to the cheers of entirely too many liberals.

P.S. I was not disputing Vino's conclusions, but his factual premise.

Posted by: JBP at April 29, 2005 08:21 AM

Would this be a good time to mention the fact that there is also a growing effort to bring democracy to Pakistan? And that I see almost no disscussion on conservative blogs about that? I mean, what's up with that? A nuclear-armed dictatorship that created the Taliban, that the US just sold 70 F-16 fighters to, arresting over a thousand people on the suspicion that they were going to demonstrate against the government, and barely any mention of it by our friendly conservative bloggers. It wouldn't be because Pakistan is a close US ally, would it?

This is partly tongue in cheek (and misleading, as I read about it on my favorite conservative blog, The Cunning Realist). Asking pointed questions about why people aren't paying attention to one's latest favorite cause is counter-productive. As is giving the Bush administration credit for Lebanon while he walks hand-in-hand with an old family friend who just happened to preside over the arrest of 40 Christians for attending a private Christian service in his country just before boarding the plane for his visit with Bush.

If I weren't of such a cheery disposistion, the whole thing would make me cynical.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 08:52 AM

JBP,

This whole line of argument - that because Jimmy Carter invited Moore to the convention, they are forever tarred by him and must "Sistah Souljah" him - is so wearying.

Let's recall that President Bush has nominated to his administration men who were actually convicted of violating US laws and perjuring themselves before Congress. Moore is an idiot and a blowhard who makes movies. Negroponte is a criminal and is now head of our country's intelligence apparatus. Dichotomy, baby.

But, as usual, Matthew Yglesias says it better. Though he is talking about attitudes towards racism, rather than treason (which does not apply, legally or otherwise, to Moore because he has never offered aid or comfort to America's enemies, no matter how vile we may find his speech), I think it sums things up nicely:
Now it's well known that the media employs an extremism double standard. Any Democrat is allowed to be tarred with the views of any semi-prominent person who supports Democratic candidates or, at a minimum, criticizes Republican officeholders. But the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate can share a television platform with a gaggle of bigots and that says nothing about him. I don't like it anymore than you, but this is the standard that's been in effect since 1968 at least. So the fact that Bill Frist can appear with white supremacist Tony Perkins and William "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity" Donohue and escape unscathed no longer surprises me.
The same applies to national security issues - liberals are tarred by Moore, but conservatives avoid, somehow, being tarred as genocidal fanatics despite the popularity in some circles of people like Ann Coulter. Go figure. Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 09:25 AM

“It wouldn't be because Pakistan is a close US ally, would it?”

Do you expect utopian perfection? The United States also once formed a close working relationship with Joseph Stalin. It was necessary because of the mutual need to defeat the Nazis. There is only so much that we presently can do with the Pakistan government. We are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The Bush administration has no choice but to cautiously push for reform. Does that make me seem hypocritical? Oh well, I can live with it.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 09:30 AM

>>>"But the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate can share a television platform with a gaggle of bigots and that says nothing about him."

The only bigot here is Matthew Yglesias.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 09:58 AM

David,

I absolutely agree with you that Bush is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Pakistan, that he's had to make a tough choice, and he made the best one possible.

I've read a few people suggesting that Bush could be doing more to pressure Musharraf, which he probably could (considering his track record), but I admit to being a neophyte when it comes to Pakistani politics. So, I'm not in much of a position to be able to make suggestions about that or offer critique.

However, the important issue isn't, in this context, whether Bush is doing the right thing by supporting Musharraf. The questions is: how does Bush modify his image in the greater Middle East that he doesn't care much for freedom, that his support is rhetorical only, that he coddles dictators like Abdullah and Musharraf, and so forth. Honestly, suggestions? How does Bush make people believe, regardless of whether he is or not, that he actually supports freedom?

I imagine not holding hands with Abdullah or calling Putin "Vladimir" during his press conferences would be a start.

And Spaniard: huh?

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 10:03 AM

Do you expect utopian perfection?

No, I expect consistency.

There is only so much that we presently can do with the Pakistan government.

Bull. The Pakistan is a US ally, I'd expect that there is a great deal more they can do there than in Lebanon. Instead, this dictatorship that is riddled with Osama Bin Laden admirers and is armed with nukes is given an arsenal by this administration.

We are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The Bush administration has no choice but to cautiously push for reform.

If you think that supplying this military dictator with 70 F-16s is "cautiously pushing for reform" then I'd say you're delusional. An extremely nasty dictator is being actively supported because he's convenient. And the Saudis are far worse than even Hussein was.

Please provide me with a single example of how the Bush administration is cautiously pushing for reform in Pakistan.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 10:07 AM

“If you think that supplying this military dictator with 70 F-16s is "cautiously pushing for reform" then I'd say you're delusional.”

I am in total agreement with Jeanne Kilpatrick that the United States should not throw our less than perfect allies to the wolves. In respect to Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf may admittedly leave something to be desired---but his possible replacement would probably be far worst. The Bush administration considers the advocacy of democracy in the Middle East as the best way of protecting our own safety. I do not expect the President to publicly insult Musharraf. Subtle discussions behind closed doors are sufficient for me.

Pervez Musharraf embraces secular Western ideals. He has no use for Islamic nihilism. And I’m very glad that we sent his military those F-16s. It must be nice to reside in your make believe universe. Alas, the rest of us must live in the real world.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 10:25 AM

Pervez Musharraf embraces secular Western ideals. He has no use for Islamic nihilism.

I see that you have no clue as to the nature of that particular dictatorship. Do a little reading about their intelligence service and military.

And I’m very glad that we sent his military those F-16s. It must be nice to reside in your make believe universe. Alas, the rest of us must live in the real world.

I see. There's good dictatorships and bad dictatorships, and the measuring stick is the relationship of the dictator with the US. Well, here's hoping that continued support of this guy doesn't lead to yet another Islamic fundamentalist uprising, because then you'll have jihadist lunatics armed with nukes, missiles, and US-supplied fighters.

As you haven't supplied an example of "cautious pushing toward reform", I have to assume that your mention of "subtle discussions behind closed doors" are pure speculation on your part.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 10:39 AM

“The questions is: how does Bush modify his image in the greater Middle East that he doesn't care much for freedom, that his support is rhetorical only, that he coddles dictators like Abdullah and Musharraf, and so forth. Honestly, suggestions? How does Bush make people believe, regardless of whether he is or not, that he actually supports freedom?”

Do you want President Bush to send troops into the offices of the New York Times and Al Jazeera? You are inadvertently referring to our difficulties with the propagandists. The MSM in the West and many so-called journalists in the Middle east are going to viciously attack us regardless of what we do. America is in a no-win situation. The President must simply push forward---while realizing that we do not live in a fair world. You can’t overly worry about things that cannot be controlled.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 10:44 AM

David,

I can't help but believe that you completely, completely got this wrong.

Earlier in this thread, I pointed out that a problem the US faces is that many in the Middle East who would be happy to cooperate with us don't because they see Bush as two-faced, claiming to support freedom one second and getting to second base with the Saudis the next. Mr. Totten confirmed this - people in the region don't trust us.

Of course this has to be turned into yet another bullshit story about the big bad MSM. Honestly, could you be more off target? This literally has nothing to do with American media. It has everything to do with the fact that Bush says, with his mouth, that he wants to bring freedom to the Middle East, and then a day later holds hands with a Middle Eastern dictator at his personal home. The media, of any country, does not need to spin this. They need simply, you know, report. If they quote Bush verbatim, and then show pictures of what happened, people might get a little suspicious of his motives. It probably starts to get a little worse in a region known for explaining things through conspiracy theories.

If this were irrelevant, the US would not be engaged in a massive "hearts and minds" operation to win public opinion over to our side. It does not help that Bush erases every single bit of success every time he pulls a stunt like this.

Posted by: David at April 29, 2005 10:51 AM

Huh. That last one was by me, and addressed to David. Not sure how that happened...

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 10:54 AM

With respect to Pakistan, none have noted that a Bus just went between Indian Kashmir and Paki Kashmir -- for the first time in some 50 years.

Anti-Americanism is alive and well there, too; no leader can long endure if seen to be an American poodle. The inconsistency of Bush, which I also don't like so much, is because he is so weak. No. America is so weak. It can only fight two or three countries at a time and do regime change while losing less soldiers than die on the freeways each month.

As top dog in the world, like the Aztecs were in Mexico, all the other dogs have at least some envy. Cortez conquered Mexico by allying with Aztec enemies.

The reasons the Left wants Bush to be "more consistent" are two. First, to do good by force. To be so strong, and so good, that none can resist. We can't even be that good in Iraq (i.e. Abu -- which Michael complains about), how can we realistically threaten to enforce regime change on every dictatorship?
The second reason is the unspoken knowledge that if Bush did throw his "bastard" allies away, he would fail -- and the Left wants Bush to fail.

Recalling how Carter and Clinton sucked up to the various world dictators; how Carter (and Ford) accepted the Killing Fields of Cambodia (30 yr anniversary), and how Clinton accepted Rwanda (10 yr anniversary), Leftist criticism against Bush by those who voted Clinton in 1996 seems hypocritical. But the Leftist MSM allows the Left to have such a double standard.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 29, 2005 10:54 AM

Great lines, Michael.

But: "Beirut is ground zero of a liberal-democratic revolution in the Middle East."

I think Iraq.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 29, 2005 10:55 AM

Leftist criticism against Bush by those who voted Clinton in 1996 seems hypocritical. But the Leftist MSM allows the Left to have such a double standard.

The left does this, the left thinks that, leftists are under my bed and peeking out of my wife's blouse. Sheesh.

Deal with the issue at hand. Clinton was a dink when it came to Rwanda, but what the hell does that have to do with support of dictatorships or spread of democracy? Talk about changing the subject.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 11:00 AM

“This literally has nothing to do with American media.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The publisher of the New York Times, Pinch Sulzberger, once was quoted saying that American soldiers deserved to die in Vietnam because they were part of an invading army. Many of our MSM journalists hold similar views. They will lie to themselves. But when push comes to shove---a large percentage of the MSM is ashamed of being American.

“...but what the hell does that have to do with support of dictatorships or spread of democracy? Talk about changing the subject.”

I have already responded to your questions. If you don’t like the answers---then that’s tough. There’s nothing more that I can do.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 11:15 AM

I have already responded to your questions. If you don’t like the answers---then that’s tough. There’s nothing more that I can do.

Well, you could actually read the comment and notice that it's not directed at you.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 11:17 AM

THE COMMENTER: And Spaniard: huh?

Sounds like you're experiencing some cognitive dissonance.

I know. How could a Liberal like Matthew Yglesias possibly be bigoted.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 11:20 AM

David,

The reason why I state that the "MSM" has nothing to do with the issue is this:

Regardless, utterly regardless, of political bias on the part of American media, so long as the media is allowed to quote Bush and take pictures of Bush without charges of bias, and so long as it is allowed to publish those quotes and pictures without charges of bias, people in the Middle East seem to interpret inconsistencies between those statements and those actions as suspicious.

There's no bias, right, in quoting Bush as saying that he wants to bring freedom to the Middle East, right? There's no bias, right, in reporting that the US decided to sell fighters to Pakistan, right? What I'm trying to tell you is that the limited amount of public opinion polling out of the Middle East, as well as Middle Eastern political punditry, frequently indicate that people in the region interpret this as an inconsistency, as hypocrisy, and that Bush is not to be trusted, even if their impulse is to support Bush and democracy.

I'm not sure how much more clearly I can say this. There is no spin in reporting simple facts such as "Bush said X" and "Bush announced that the US was doing Y".

Many in the Middle East interpret this as suspicious because they're already operating under the assumption that the US is suspicious. Maybe they're legitimately suspicious of very inconsistent words and actions.

Of course, if we are to take the perspective of people who care about US national security, which I will assume, then all that matters is results, not motivations. Middle Easterners can be suspicious of us for whatever reason they want, becuase the "MSM" is treasonous (lame) or because Bush does put on a bad show with Abdullah in Crawford or whatever. Irrelevant. What matters is: convincing people in the region that Bush is serious and inducing them to cooperate.

Every second people spend on defending Bush and making up excuses ("Oh, some guy, he doesn't like soliders, oh, what do I do, I don't know...") demonstrates their lack of seriousness on national security.

The fact of the matter is that Bush's words are, in fact, sometimes inconsistent with his actions, and that people notice this, and as a result, we are less secure. Bush's job isn't to defend himself from all criticism, it's to protect us, and he's making that harder through his actions. Set aside all partisan bickering. Imagine, for a second, that someone is able to be critical of Bush's actions without taking part in a "manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief". Imagine, for a second, that someone is able to be critical of Bush because they care more about defending America than they do about a president's political fortunes.

Yes, yes, it's the big bad "MSM". Let's pretend for a moment that the "MSM" is in fact causing this. So, Bush will do what, exactly, to fix the problem? Al Qaeda is causing other problems. Shall we then excuse Bush from taking action against terrorism? If, after 9/11, Bush had failed to act, and I was critical, saying that he needed to act to defend us, would you then spend your time arguing that it's al Qaeda's fault, not Bush's, so that I can't be critical of Bush?

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 11:31 AM

Spaniard,

Let's play a little game. It's called, "Let's Pretend".

Let's pretend that I made a comment. That pretend comment is: Spaniard is obviously a pedophile who lives in his mother's basement at the age of 47, commenting on this blog while surfing the net for kiddie porn and more Star Trek memorabilia to add to his already impressive collection.

Let's pretend that, after having made that pretend comment, you were confused, and rightly so: what reason would I have to make that comment? What possible grounds would I have to make such horrible accusations at someone whose name I don't even know, much less someone I've never met or heard of before. You might respond with a comment like: huh?

Imagine, then, that I proceeded to respond with something like this: Sounds like you're experiencing some cognitive dissonance.

I know. How could a Conservative like Spaniard possibly be a pedophile living in his mom's basement?

Wasn't that a fun game of Let's Pretend? I think we all won.

But seriously, for a moment: the "huh?" was a question asking, briefly, what reason you had for thinking that he was a bigot?

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 11:38 AM

But seriously, for a moment: the "huh?" was a question asking, briefly, what reason you had for thinking that he was a bigot?

Commenter,

anybody who refers to conservative christians as a "gaggle of bigots" is himself a bigot.

It seemed so very self-evident to me that I didn't feel the need to insult your intelligence by having to bluntly point it out to you. I was being respectful in a way.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 11:53 AM

Oh Spaniard, I think that we all need to agree that what is painfully self-evident to one person is a deep mystery to another, and vice versa.

I was under the impression that Yglesias was referring to specific people, such as those he named, and perhaps a few others, such as Jerry "9/11 is All America's Fault" Falwell, for example. I didn't get the impression that he was criticizing conservative Christians as a group.

Posted by: The Commenter at April 29, 2005 11:57 AM

anybody who refers to conservative christians as a "gaggle of bigots" is himself a bigot.

But what if the specific conservative Christians being referred to are, in fact, a gaggle of bigots (as they are, in fact, white supremists). You seem to be implying that he's referring to all conservative Christians as bigots. Which he wasn't.

Or are you saying that all coonservatie Christians are white supremists? That doesn't seem likely.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 11:59 AM

“Regardless, utterly regardless, of political bias on the part of American media, so long as the media is allowed to quote Bush and take pictures of Bush without charges of bias, and so long as it is allowed to publish those quotes and pictures without charges of bias”

The MSM selectively pick and chose what to highlight and what to ignore. I can make virtually anyone seem like a virtuous person or the scum of the earth by editing their words and facial expressions.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 12:00 PM

Make that "conservative Christians" in the second-to-last sentence of my post above.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 12:00 PM

Oh Spaniard, I think that we all need to agree that what is painfully self-evident to one person is a deep mystery to another, and vice versa.

Commenter,

but of course, but of course. We share different paradigms, and sometimes it takes that quantum leap to really see it. I myself am highly sensitized to christophobia, you clearly are not-- though I try not to be paranoid. For instance, Michael's comment about uptight Lebanese christians. It made me look twice, but there was nothing phobic about it.

But Mr. Yglesias's comments are an entirely different matter. Such comments are staple to the Left, so I know he meant it exactly the way I read it.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 12:05 PM

But Mr. Yglesias's comments are an entirely different matter. Such comments are staple to the Left, so I know he meant it exactly the way I read it.

You mean it's not his actual words, but your interpretation of them?

Wow. That must make debate easier. I must try it here. I'm familiar with how "spaniard" thinks, so when he said that he thought that Yglesias was a bigot, what he actually meant was that herring live in trees.

I'm starting to think that Michaels otherwise enjoyable blog is becoming infested with fantical loons.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 12:15 PM

COMMENTER: "liberals are tarred by Moore, but conservatives avoid, somehow, being tarred as genocidal fanatics despite the popularity in some circles of people like Ann Coulter. Go figure.'

Conservatives are most definitely "tarred" by people like Ann Coulter. Just go to some of the insane asylums some people call blogs, like Kos and DU. Are you saying they're wrong? Isn't that precisely the reason it's cool to hate conservatives and call them evil? Your very own party leader calls us evil, for cyring out loud. He uses that word. Yet even I, fanatical conservative that I am, wouldn't call Liberals evil. Deluded, misguided, silly-- but not evil. So how exactly have we avoided being tarred by the likes of Ann Coulter? We haven't. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. You have Michael Moore, we have Coulter.
I don't think it's unfair for you to hold Coulter over our heads. We pay her, don't we? Don't you also pay Michael Moore? Live with it.

The only controversy here is that you want the proverbial cake and to eat it too.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 12:55 PM

If someone really wants to pick on countries for being untrustworthy in the ME just look at Spain and Italy - major about faces for supporting the spead of freedom there.

The US is the strongest supporter of Israel, and is the strongest supporter for democratizing (some) Muslim countries in the ME. The US sells F-16's to Musharraf and threatens Iran and Syria, buddies up with Saudi Arabia, and is indifferent to other countries. This pretty much insures that nobody there in the ME is going to fully trust the US (and maybe they shouldn't) - the US is hedging and taking all sides. Lot's of mixed messages, but it's a complex world, and there are no guarantees. (But it certainly doesn't help that Bush is a pathetic speaker.)

But who else can these people in the ME such as the Sunni Lebanese put their trust in? Russia? Japan? The EU? Canada? Mexico? The UN? Hezbollah? Syria? At least the US is trying to help bring freedom to millions in the ME. I'm sure some people will flip out on this one but I believe that the Bush Administration is trying hard to be benevolent and generous in the region. The US could have easily implemented scorched earth policies and leveled the whole area.

So the people of Lebanon wanting freedom have tough decisions to make. Do the ally with the US or not? If not the US, then who? Are they strong enough to do it themselves? It sounds like the Lebanese are asking these questions and, as The Commenter says, it is rather arrogant to tell them what to do. But I see nothing wrong in giving them encouragement and supportive advice.

It's usually not the experts or "people who know best what to do" that end up changing history, it's the risk takers doing what they believe in that changes the world in dramatic ways - good and bad.

So here's my arrogant, unsolicited advice to the Lebanese - they need to find a strong, articulate leader to unite and "control" people (i.e., keeping them focused on the goals and talking them out of rioting or starting civil wars) and present their cause to the world - someone in the line of Lec Walesa who was instrumental in changing the political structure in Poland (and Sistani in Iraq and Karzai in Afghanistan are doing decent jobs today). Rallying around their dead leader Harari will only work for so long. The Lebanese need a living symbol like Lec for the MSM and governments to work with - "opposition leaders" won't cut it.

Posted by: markytom at April 29, 2005 12:57 PM

On second reading, I retract my comment about Matthew Yglesias (even though Leftwing bigotry against christians is common knowledge.)

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 12:58 PM

Spaniard, thank you.

It takes character to retract an opinion is a heated argument.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at April 29, 2005 01:15 PM

(even though Leftwing bigotry against christians is common knowledge.)

Really? News to me. Maybe you need to improve the quality of the leftists you know, they sound pretty bad.

Speaking of news to me, I hadn't heard that Carlos was banned. I found it interesting that the first "spaniard" post was the word "test" directly under the banning in this thread.

What were you testing, spaniard?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 01:18 PM

Really? News to me

And that's supposed to mean anything?

Wow DPU, you must find me really frightening if you do name searches on me.

If you have any questions about what I was testing, send Michael an email and ask him.

Posted by: spaniard at April 29, 2005 01:33 PM

Wow DPU, you must find me really frightening if you do name searches on me.

Paging Dr. Von Ego, Dr. Von Ego to the lobby please.

I was reading up on what Carlos had done that deserved banning, and there was that single word "test" post from Spaniard.

If I was really wanted to do some poking around, I'd encourage looking into some of these bogus "leftists" that keep posting here, displaying that typically cartoonish version of the left that some people here seem obsessed with. Someone obviously knows about IP spoofing.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 01:48 PM

DPU,

Don't worry. I can spot a bogus leftist from the other side of the world.

Oh, and for the record, the commenter known as The Commenter is still right. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 29, 2005 02:22 PM

"It has everything to do with the fact that Bush says, with his mouth, that he wants to bring freedom to the Middle East, and then a day later holds hands with a Middle Eastern dictator at his personal home. "

And soon thereafter SA announced that they would drop oil prices. It's called diplomacy. Don't get so fixated on the leaves that you forget what the forest looks like.

Posted by: Yehudit at April 29, 2005 02:29 PM

And soon thereafter SA announced that they would drop oil prices.

No, they promised to increase production. By the end of the decade. Which might be crap anyway, as several energy strategists think that Saudi Arabia, along with other oil producers, have been inflating their reserve figures in order to get around OPEC production restrictions.

They're already pumping at full capacity. I think Bush was attempting to spread the pain around a little.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 02:36 PM

Don't worry. I can spot a bogus leftist from the other side of the world.

Cool. Watch for gratuitous use of the term "comrade."

"We leftists" is something else that seems popular with the stylish faux socialist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 29, 2005 02:41 PM

Yehudit,

I understand why Bush does what he does. But I've heard about it from several Lebanese. Saudi Arabia is HATED here, more than most Americans probably have any idea. Not only because the Saudis are Wahhabis, but because the Saudis come here as tourists and behave like, well, kings. Lebanese people don't like that.

They bring their Saudi license plates with them on the plane and slap them on rental cars because Saudi cars don't get parking tickets. For example.

They also tote thug bodyguards around with them. I already had to switch floors in my hotel because some fat Saudi asshole's bodyguards made living on my floor intolerable. The hotel was quite understanding and apologetic. The lady at the desk said "We tried to get them out of here, but they won't leave." Then she said "You are very welcome here." And I'm the "infidel" in the Sunni neighborhood.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 29, 2005 02:45 PM

Commentator,

This whole line of argument - that because Jimmy Carter invited Moore to the convention, they are forever tarred by him and must "Sistah Souljah" him - is so wearying.

Methinks you tilt at men of straw. Did you possibly miss the fact that I did not make the argument that liberals should be forever tarred by Moore? In private, liberal legislators have told me that he is a disgrace. On the other hand, a lot also support him. The Dems should, as a matter of principle, have a Sistah Souljah moment. But I do not think nor have ever said that they should all be tarnished by them. The ones who supported his slander, like Jimmy Carter, should be tarred, but I recognize that those are a small subset. Nevertheless, the public silence is deafening. My point is that it is understandable why people draw these erroneous conclusions.

I don't want to go off on a tangent about Negroponte. But do you know what? It is irrelevant to what we are talking about.

genocidal fanatics despite the popularity in some circles of people like Ann Coulter.

Look, Coulter likes to twist the facts in such a way as to make Liberals look as stupid or evil as possible. She is frequently intellectually unfair. But to call her "a genocidal fanatic" is to commit the same sins she commits.

Posted by: JBP at April 29, 2005 03:10 PM

“And soon thereafter SA announced that they would drop oil prices.

No, they promised to increase production.”

Allow me the provide you a lesson in Economics 101: increased production inevitably results in lower prices! The buyer is placed in the driver’s seat.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 29, 2005 04:47 PM

Allow me the provide you a lesson in Economics 101: increased production inevitably results in lower prices! The buyer is placed in the driver’s seat.

Of course, the price of Saudi terrorism is never figured into the cost per barrel. Not much of a deal for the buyer in the long run, as is proved by the condition of our economy.

Bush legitimized a fascist terror-supporting dictator that is hated by most of the people in the free and unfree world. He publicly begged him for a favor for the sake of oil prices. I've never been more proud of my country.

Bush is a national hero, like Cynthia McKinney. /sarcasm

Of course, Clinton, who recently accepted millions of donations from the Saudis, would have done the same thing. So would the Canadians, so would the French, so would the Russians and so would the Chinese. The world seems to have decided, en masse, to accept the legitimacy of these theofascist Wahhabis, to shower them with honors, despite the fact that they have one of the weakest military forces in the world. If we were united, their economy and their government would not be difficult to destroy.

I have no idea why millions of people have decided to accept the legitimacy of the Wahhabi government, but Bush is not setting a good example.

Posted by: mary at April 29, 2005 05:55 PM

Of course, the price of Saudi terrorism is never figured into the cost per barrel.

Actually, it kind of is. Part of the reason for the high prices is the instability and uncertainty in the Middle East which includes terrorism - Saudi sponsored or otherwise.

He publicly begged him for a favor for the sake of oil prices.

We don't know what was said in private. I would bet there were both sticks and carrots used in the negotiations.

If we were united, their economy and their government would not be difficult to destroy.

How, a blockade? Backing a coup like the Kissinger days? Their economy is oil, period. It's the cheapest in the world ($5 per barrel to pull out of the ground). Even if the price of oil dropped to $6/barrel the Sauds would be in business (and most other oil producers would be shut down). It sucks but that's the reality.

Posted by: markytom at April 29, 2005 06:26 PM

How, a blockade? Backing a coup like the Kissinger days?

This what I thought Bush was planning before the Iraq war.

9/11 was an unprovoked act of war, sponsored and carried out by the KSA. We're at war with them, whether we want to admit it or not. Most of the world's population is threatened in some way by this Wahhabi state.

In a war, it's traditional to attack and disable the enemy. By not attacking them, we show the world that we're weak, and the world has been noticing. Of course, they don't respond either, so who are they to criticize?

But you're right, the KSA will continue to export oil and terrorism in massive quantities until they're unable to do so.

Posted by: mary at April 29, 2005 07:03 PM

"Of course, the price of Saudi terrorism is never figured into the cost per barrel. Not much of a deal for the buyer in the long run, as is proved by the condition of our economy.

Bush legitimized a fascist terror-supporting dictator that is hated by most of the people in the free and unfree world. He publicly begged him for a favor for the sake of oil prices. I've never been more proud of my country."

Come now, moral convictions are sooooo 2004. You still aren't on that whole democracy and anti-totalitarianism kick are you? boy are you behind the times. Don't you know that oil is more expensive than blood spilled by terrorists and theocrats?

Posted by: Epitome at April 29, 2005 07:16 PM

Mary - from your link: 9/11 was financed, supported and inspired by the Saudi government and their state religion, Wahhabism. Like the Thousand Year Reich, the kingdom and their cult are inseparable.

I'm not an expert by any means on Saudi Arabia but I thought that the House of Saud had an alliance with the Wahabi's - they aren't one in the same. The alliance began in the 18th century and still exists today. It's the Wahabi clerics who gave the House of Saud its legitamacy in running the government. However, the relationship is becoming more and more strained and the House of Saud continues to become weaker. The pro-US stance of the Sauds isn't helping them much with anyone in the area. Plus there's lot's of infighting among the Saudi princes. Also, with Saddam gone there is less of a threat against SA - they don't need the US as much for protection.

So the Sauds are in a tough spot - they have a very weak army, they aren't getting along with the Wahabi's, they want stability to sell their oil - they have a lot of conflicting interests.

It seems to me that the Sauds are more inclined to turn a blind eye to the Wahabi sponsored terrorism rather than sponsoring it themselves. It's not very clear how close the Sauds are to the Wahabis. Maybe they have become inseparable. But if not, maybe that is why the US has always supported the Sauds - they are seen as the lesser of two evils - they are better than the Wahabis. And also, with diplomacy, the US is trying to get the Sauds to take on the Wahabi sponsored terrorism themselves - the Sauds have done a little bit in supporting the US in the GWOT. Something to consider anyway.

Posted by: markytom at April 29, 2005 08:44 PM

"I understand why Bush does what he does. But I've heard about it from several Lebanese. Saudi Arabia is HATED here, more than most Americans probably have any idea. Not only because the Saudis are Wahhabis, but because the Saudis come here as tourists and behave like, well, kings. Lebanese people don't like that. "

Michael, the Morrocans don't like them anymore than do the Lebanese. They cnsider the Saudis the Beverly Hillbillies without the charm.

Posted by: Dave at April 30, 2005 09:36 AM

The House of Saud are all Wahhabis. That's the state religion, Wahhabism is the foundation of the state government and their laws.

The Saudi royals pay the salaries of 'radical' preachers and terrorists. Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan encouraged young Saudis to go to Iraq to kill American soldiers. They don’t really need much encouragement. Saudis have been killing American soldiers and destroying the Iraqi oil fields since the ‘end’ of the Iraq war. As we can see from oil prices, terrorism has been very profitable for them.

The Saudi royalty and bin Laden agree on most issues, and they call each other ‘brothers’. Although 90% of the Saudi population supports bin Laden’s ‘ideals’, they appreciate the cradle-to-grave security that the government offers them. Under the current system, they have foreign slave/employees to do their work and no one needs to get a job that they feel is ‘beneath’ them. Approximately 500,000 Saudi nationals are employed. Five and a half million foreign workers do the rest of the work.

The Saudi royals and al Qaeda agree on most issues, and that’s why the Saudi government funds terrorism and ‘extremist’ preachers. All want to destroy the un-Islamic west, but the royals would prefer to take all of the wealth and legitimacy that we’re willing to give them beforehand.

Bush & our government (Democrat & Republican) have had a long-standing policy of helping the Royals in any way they can. When it comes to appeasing these fascists, we make Neville Chamberlain look like a warmonger.

Posted by: mary at April 30, 2005 09:44 AM

They cnsider the Saudis the Beverly Hillbillies without the charm

LOL! Every other consideration aside, inviting Abdullah to the ranch was one of Bush's biggest PR disasters yet.

Posted by: mary at April 30, 2005 09:54 AM

"LOL! Every other consideration aside, inviting Abdullah to the ranch was one of Bush's biggest PR disasters yet."

Agreed. What in hell was President Bush thinking about?

Posted by: David Thomson at April 30, 2005 05:33 PM

I don't see any reason for Bush to buddy up to Saudi Arabia anymore. The US no longer has the need for military bases there. World oil production is at full capacity now due to the high demand. OPEC including Saudi Arabia can't do much to bring the prices down even if they wanted to. Any promises they make about increasing production is bullshit. The House of Saud needs the US a lot more than the US needs them at this point in time. Their "friendship" is no longer of any benefit to the US.

I found this interesting trivia here from a Frontline transcript. Turns out FDR was the first president to really buddy up to and make deals with the Sauds.

By 1945, the U.S. urgently needs oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War. Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Abd al-Aziz's concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.

Posted by: markytom at April 30, 2005 06:20 PM
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